A Sunny Place with Adequate Water
by Mary Biddinger
Black Lawrence Press, June 2014
In her third full-length collection, A Sunny Place with Adequate Water, Mary Biddinger untangles past from present, through poems preoccupied with gentrification, imaginary coin-operated machinery, and an uncanny doubling of good and wicked selves. As “Some Dead Magic” testifies, “Even streetlamps couldn’t help themselves. // Where could they possibly lead us? There wasn’t / any magic left in the world, only stray newspapers.” The poems of this book hope that history will somehow provide insight for our current moment, while acknowledging the necessary transformation of desire over time. Part nostalgia recast as seductive angst, part pastoral (and anti-pastoral), these poems explore small town legends in a landscape of longing, displacement, looming disaster, and unexpected joy.
A little surreal, a little nostalgic, Mary Biddinger’s remarkable new collection describes the challenge of growing up a nascent artist in a sometimes resistant, but always-clamorous neighborhood. The speaker evolves from a girl who reverses herself “until there wasn’t anything left” into someone who wants to live in the burn, and each poem invokes both the visible and invisible mechanisms that uphold a small town. I’m as moved by this book’s incisive take on personal history as I was by James Tate’s Lost Pilot. –Carmen Giménez Smith
These poems proceed by way of declaration & juxtaposition, through keen sight & keener insight. Which is another way of saying that Mary Biddinger sees things & sees through things equally, not privileging one vision over the other. What we have here is our regular old world made richer & more insidious, a place where “the punishments were just as lavish as the draperies,” a home we get to see as if for the first time. –Nate Pritts
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